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Round Table June 2022: The Circular Economy & the ESG Agenda

We recently hosted a round table event on ESG and in particular the Circular Economy and how we see it applying to the property and construction sector. Aside from the obvious ways during the construction process, we wanted to start a conversation as to how clients, the professional design team and the supply chain can embrace this challenge and look at initiative ways to make real inroads into circular economy thinking.

We had representation across the spectrum – developer and asset managers, engineers, architects, cost consultants, environmental consultants and suppliers – and we had an interesting debate around this. Aside from refurbishment of a building, rather than new build, there are many other opportunities to implement circular economy principles and they could not all be covered within a 90 minute session!

What we did discuss was broadly summarised in 5 ‘take away’ points:

1- Transparency
There needs to be transparency by all parties during the process and real knowledge sharing. This includes transparency through the costing process, but also transparency in the embodied carbon inherent in the manufacture and procurement of many systems. Is it better to strip out and replace with new, energy efficient systems or is embodied carbon lower by retaining and refurbishing

2- Trust
Again there needs to be true collaboration and everyone working to the same end and doing the right thing. There was much discussion about the level of ‘up-selling’ that goes on in the industry and many instances of where a client ultimately pays for services and/or equipment that is oversized, over priced or not needed, all under the banner of being ‘sustainable’.

3- Measuring
How can we measure the impact of circular economy principles and how does that manifest itself in the capital cost, the operational cost and the ultimately value of the building. There was discussion on some real examples of where the sustainability credentials of a property had minimal impact on building value and everyone agreed somehow this needs to change.

4- Financial Incentives
Rather than penalising, would it not send out a more positive message if there were strong financial incentives to be more ‘circular’? A real life example of discount on drinks for using a reusable cup – could this be made to apply to the construction and operation of a building? Daikin are exploring a discount scheme for clients who utilise refurbished units, rather than new, but this is still in the early stages and needs more traction.

5- Knowledge through the process
Not all of the supply chain is geared up to take on these new principles. Many suppliers are still trying to catch up and hence installers are not well informed about the process and what needs to be done.
More answers than questions but we all need to be having these debates to explore real solutions that can be applied and make real change in the wasteful processes that are inherent in the construction and property industries.

We will be following up with further sessions – watch this space!